CW’s Sailing Adventures

December 7, 2007

Q&A - #92

Captain Woody,
I am endeavoring to become a fellow cruiser in the near future and have been absorbing as much information as I can to make my transition smoother once it occurs. My biggest question so far…how do cruisers cope with being aboard during a lightening storm? I have read lots about safe guarding equipment and grounding the mast, rigging, etc, but nothing about being on the boat during a storm. After all, it would not always be an option to get off the boat. Could you shed some light on this for me? I live in the central Florida area and with the fast moving, strong thunderstorms we usually get, for now I just try to be off the water before a storm catches me.
I enjoy reading your responses in Latitudes and Attitudes…very helpful.
Thank you so much for any information.
Eric Banner
S/V Soul Provider

Lightning is magic. There doesn’t seem to be a sure way to keep lightning from striking a boat. It strikes randomly. Yes, if you bond the entire boat than it gives the lightning many paths to escape. Experience has taught us that if you get a large enough 'bolt' you will simply be blowing many holes out of your boat instead of just one.

This is old school but I like this solution the best. On Lost Sould we used to shackle a length of chain to the backstay and chuck it over the stern. I have adapted this technique by using a long piece of battery cable with the part that will be in the water stripped back to expose the raw wire. This is easier on the rail. Make sure you've got 6 or 8 feet of wire in the water at all angles of heal and pitch. I like this because it gives the lightning a direct path to the water outside the boat.

When you are out there sailing around in a lightning storm (sometimes it can't be helped), keep in mind "the cone of safety". They say you are safe from a direct hit to your body onboard a masted boat. As the theory goes, lighting will strike the top of the mast before striking anything within a 60 degree cone, where the point of the cone is at the top of the mast and the wide circle is in the water around your boat. Keep in mind that if we are routing the lightning down the backstay you and your crew should stay away from it.

Capt. Woody,
Wanted to drop you a note to wish you the best. Keep up the good work in "Latts & Atts", we enjoy reading your thoughts and your observations are great. The pictures on your web site inspire us to dream the dream, as Bob would say. A great job, thank you.

The pictures are surreal for us and actually go beyond our experience! For 20 years we have been doing humanitarian/missionary work in the Chihuahua Desert in Mexico and far West Texas. High, dry and dusty we know, but the aqua clear water, swimming each day, and what appears to be caring camaraderie with most cruisers looks so appealing ... The wow factor is pretty great for us. …

Yes, but the dream boat? A Formosa Ketch holds all the romance of the seas we could hope for. Looks like the 41 footers are way more affordable but the 56 foot would be the dream! It seems to the untrained eye these are similar to the Lost Soul. The Ketch looks very safe and stable. How do they sail? Is 10 knots a reasonable expectation? … Please keep the dream going for us. Thanks for your time. Hello to Bob and Jody.
Best Regards, Gregg Harlow

Good for you guys in helping people. Most of us would like to help out ... but we've got to work to make that next SUV payment. Yours is a much higher quality experience. I'm glad to have entertained you and I hope to continue to do so.

Formosas are reeeal pretty boats. Bob's was an unusual design in that it had a fin keel. His boat could point into the wind better than a full keeled boat of the same specs. Most Formosas are full keels (or cutaway full). Full keels are another boat tradeoff, speed for safety. Besides being restricted in their ability to point they are also slower, both up and downwind. At the same time, abandon most full keel boats in a hurricane and, more than not, you will find that boat happily floating along after the storm. I suspect I could lose my lightweight coastal cruiser Low Key if I ever saw much over 50 knots. This simply means that I can not linger in areas where hurricane season is approaching. I'm not much for lingering anyway. For planning long passages I think we used 7 knots as an average speed for Bob and Jody's 56, much less upwind. In very large seas, while running, we would see more than 10 knots of boatspeed for short periods of time (when surfing).

The 56 (68 overall) is a big boat which is one of the reasons that Bob let theirs go. He is looking at 50'. 50 is still big for a couple. With every 5' of boatlength, the price of operation seams to about double. Sounds like you guys work outside. The best part of cruising is found ashore and on deck. You don't need to be locked up inside a big boat all the time. A smaller boat will give you the funds and flexibility to do more exploring ashore - sites, meals, new friends - get the flavor of where you are.

Though ketchs are prettier, I prefer a cutter or sloop (one mast). You get the same speed without the extra work.

Most importantly, don't load up the boat with systems you don't need. I encourage people to do as much as they can with 12v, for example. There is talk about loading up the big guy's new boat with some superfluous (to me) gear. I'm hoping he'll remember that it was that extra gear that made the last boat as much work as fun (again, for me).

Correction: A few issues ago I listed the Compac in a group of boats I deemed appropriate for heavy offshore work. Though a great coastal cruiser and island boat, it was Cape Dory that I had in the back of my wee skull when I put fingers to keyboard that day. If you purchased a Compac as a result of my advice, chuck some food and a few sunset coldies onboard and I'll come out and show you how I'd set her up for a safe (downwind type) ocean crossing.

Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. Yep, I got jumped outside a bar and tore a blood vessel in my abdomen. No, I wasn’t found on the beach bleeding. The docs went in and patched me up. I'll be 100% by the time you read this. We're still looking for the bad guys. I want to say thanks for all of the nice calls and emails and for the staff's efforts to collect money on my behalf. I will be returning checks sent in. I don't put myself out there so I can ask my friends to pick up the pieces. My "health plan", though unconventional, has covered my medical expenses. Thank you again for the wonderful outpouring of concern and support!

I'm off to deliver a boat from Hawaii to Guam (never been to Guam - am very excited).

November 10, 2007

Stopped into Key West on a boat delivery to check into the country.  Typical night out there.

October 7, 2007

Oregon - #91

“I thought you were older.” I get that a lot, I thought to myself. I had flown into San Diego to deliver a new 43‘ Beneteau up to Brookings, OR. People trusting you with there life’s dream have a right to be cautious with the person they entrust with the task. They were the nicest couple. They had never read Lats and Atts - I didn’t know if that boded well for our little adventure or not. I guess we were going to find out.

The plan was to do an overnighter to Marina del Rey, CA the first weekend and then start a week long trip to Brookings a week later. I took a casual interest in the weather for this first leg. I was already watching for patterns for the big second leg. For the most part, we don’t get much weather in my sailing area between Ensenada, Mexico and Point Conception which is just uphill of Santa Barbara. Yes, the current and wind flow mostly southbound with the coastline on the Pacific side of the states.

We did our first food shopping trip together. We topped up the fuel tank and got ready to go. There was an issue with the GPS/radar/plotter/cockpit light. The Beneteau guys were great and got their electronics guy down pronto. He figured out that we just had the wrong monitor set as master.

We headed out. It was motorsailing the whole way. We got introduced to watch schedules and how we would respond to different situations. On the late night watch we spotted some lights. Small, clear red flashing lights moving quickly across the horizon than stopping suddenly. I naturally assumed UFO’s. We moved in closer of course. About the time Joe thought he could hear helicopter rotors I could just make out a large dark shape on the water between us and land. Then the radio lit up. I won’t detail the whole conversation but basically, it was the Navy conducting maneuvers on the main coastal boating lane between San Diego and LA. It was explained that their boat was purposely dark and underway and would not be changing course for any reason. We had to take the long way around. Many international navigation rules were broken but I’m sure it was in all of our best interest…

It was quiet after that and I had the watch that took us all the way in to our slip in MdR at sun up.

Five days later I was back aboard. The crew had fully assembled. It was myself, the parents and their hot 23yo daughter. I know what you’re thinking … nothing like that happened. We had a more pressing issue though. My steady crew had a weather concern. It didn’t come from their skipper. To me it looked like a perfect time to go, just as a small front was rolling through. That would give us a couple, three precious days of flat water on this leg that is traditionally known as being a somewhat brutal upwind adventure. The concerns came from ‘dock experts’. You know who I’m talking about. Guys who never leave the dock (which is fine) but step up and give you their expert opinion (which is unfortunate). Crew morale is a precious thing on a boat.

After a nice dinner we got the pretty boat underway. We talked about what to expect. We would see some rain, some lightning and some wind in the early part of the adventure but the seas would be low which would make for fast uphill work.

The lightning was so close I felt the pressure concussion. The radar filled itself with a very dense patch of rain just ahead. I did not see a thin spot to aim for on the radar so we stayed on coarse and motorsailed through it. Seems I had brought my trusting crew straight into an “exciting situation” - something I try not to do until the second night. The max wind indicator would later tell us that we had 41.9 knots. It was enough to get a flat boat to round up against it’s will with just a reefed main up. The crew moved up under the dodger to stay dry (and, I suspect, aboard). The option to ease out the main was covered up. I made my way back to the helm. The autopilot was hard over. I put it on manual and got the boat steered off the wind to ease the pressure. This can actually keep you under the hard part of the squall for longer but it got the boat to flatten out. The wind had already started decreasing. We took another reef (yes, yes, ‘reef early and often‘) and got back on course. Roller reefing masts (and to a lesser degree, booms) are unfit for safe, comfortable cruising … in my opinion.

It was beautiful when we pulled into Santa Barbara the next morning to top up and to confirm our fuel burn estimate. My crew had weathered the squall unbelievably well. I did not see the usual gripping fear look that appears in the hours after the sea reaches up to test a crew’s resolve to be out there, their commitment to share her waters with the greats that have come before them. No, it was that smile that you get when you’ve weathered something exciting and when you’ve accomplished something. And they had. I confessed that they weren’t likely to see those conditions again on this trip.

But it was better than that even. We rounded Pt. Conception, Pt. Arguello, Pt. Sur, The Farallons off S.F., and Pt. Reyes without much beating at all. It was actually clear at the Farallons. It’s always been foggy there when I’d passed before. We had suffered unusually fine weather for a northbound delivery. Still, we pulled into Bodega Bay for fuel and to stay the night.

Why not get right back out into the perfect weather? That is what I prefer. was telling me that if we waited then our rounding of treacherous Mendocino would come at a calmer time. I’ve tried a lot of weather sites. No one has done more accurate predictions for me than Buoyweather, all over the planet.

We did encounter some chop around Pt. Arena which, in a flat boat (read: fast downwind) can be bumpy. By bumpy I mean that, even when cracked off the wind for motorsailing, the boat will launch off a swell and land flat, shaking everything from the mast fly to your uncles shark-fin nose-ring.

When the VHF radio comes to life and is unusually clear and loud I start out assuming that it is the USCG. No one has more powerful, well tuned gear than our friends at the CG (thankfully). “Sailing vessel on approach to Chetco River this is USCG Chetco River.” Another boat answered. This was soon cleared up. We answered a bunch of questions. I never take it personally. They (safely) practice on non-threats in non-critical situations.

Joe took the helm for the ride in. It couldn’t have been darker out. I explained how we were going to take the approach one aid-to-navigation at a time (ATON). He would have preferred to have the picture be more clear. This is something that takes a lot of practice. I wanted to emphasize that the entrance was new to all of us. We had to trust the charts and pick up each light as it came. This was the US where ATON’s were very likely to be in their reported locations. Still, I had called the Coast Guard earlier that day to confirm that the bar was safe to pass. The report was good and there were no reported buoys off -station. The bar had a lighted range on the hillside which we also used to recognize the center of the channel. Joe brought us in with no incident.

September 7, 2007

Yacht Delivery - #90

I arrived at the Shilshole Marina fired up. It had been eight months since I had done any kind of serious traveling by boat. It had been eight months of boatshows and classrooms, research and phone calls. It all seemed like fun at the time but then everything changed. I had been helping out a friend while trying to make a little money for the cruising kitty. Things didn't proceed as planned (do they ever in business?). Renegotiations commenced and suddenly, I found myself sitting by the curb with an unusually wide open schedule. What does a lone sailor do in such a situation? I put the word out. A week later I was headed to Seattle, Washington, one of the west coast's big three of sailing, for some 'cruising' … of sorts.

She was an 80' motor yacht (best I could do on such short notice). Capt. Keith had rung me up and asked if I would assist in moving the big girl from Seattle to San Francisco. I hadn't worked under another skipper in almost a decade. It was kind of a rule that I laid down after my last experience when the skipper tried to run us into an island and later, head-on into a ship. This was a very different situation. Capt. Keith was an old friend. We were both working big boats in La Paz, Mex when we met. Much later, he and his wife Joanie joined Dena and I on Low Key for a couple weeks in Fiji. This is a guy I trust but more importantly, we have a mutual respect for each other (guess he doesn't know me very well ;).

My brother Rusty (who stole the show at the Share the Sail - St. Vincent last May) lives in the mountains above Seattle. I stopped in on him and his Ozzy babe Kylie. It was great to see them. They live in a little back house on a lake. It was there I discovered another kind of cruising - an amazing invention. The lake houses had docks that had detachable sections at the ends. The residents would cast off and, propelled by silent little electric motors, putt around the lake, kicking back in deck chairs of course, cooler for a footrest. I was dumbfounded by the brilliance of this idea. It made me want to live on a mountain lake … if just for a month or two.

I made my way to the boat. It was good to see Keith again. He introduced me to our third crew, 18yo Trevor. I was shown to my stateroom. The concept that the room was perfectly square only bothered me for a sec. After an arrival coldie, of course, Keith fired up the twin monster MTU's and whipped the boat around to the fuel dock. On the dock was a greeting party - two babes complete with a bottle of wine. Before I could offer them a peek aboard my yacht and use of my corkscrew their ride slithered up, smooth-like, sporting two very suave looking gentlemen (who proceeded to pump diesel into their pretty little gas power boat).

The next morning we headed out to sea. Well, actually, we had another 110 miles until we would see the open ocean. We banged through the wind-chop, up and out to Neah Bay, the last good anchorage before you sneak around the often treacherous Cape Flattery to head south. Regardless of the odd circumstances, it was great to be out on the water.

Before I knew it we had the hook down at Neah, the sun setting over a pine covered mountain, sippin' coldies, steaks on the grill, getting caught up with old and new friends. Sound familiar? No need to spend three million for this experience. Two water makers, separate freezers and the largest refrigerator I'd ever seen, a couple icemakers, real laundry machines, mobile Direct TV, and a bridge full of electronic gear comes at a price - that incessant humming and vibration in the background, 24/7, originating from the "boat would die without it" generator. Suddenly having to shower on the swim step seemed kinda fun.

Up early and back to sea we averaged an easy 11kts for the overnighter to Newport, OR. Although it's never required to actually go outside on a power boat I did spend a few minutes at the bow getting reacquainted with my dolphin friends. I don't think they remembered me.

We pulled into Newport and topped up the fuel. At our leisurely pace we had only used 600 gallons (I used 200 to circumnavigate). It was all very exciting there in Newport. There was a car show next to the trailer park but we opted for a shuttle into town. After a wharfside lunch and mini pub crawl we ended up back at the Rogue Brewery, a stones throw from the boat.

Keith and I spent the evening sampling the breweries finest brought out by the half-dozen in glasses set in baseball bats. (Confused? Plan your own visit). We dragged this nice couple that was touring the west coast in a VW campervan back to the yacht where Capt. Keith whipped up a gourmet dinner. We drank a couple cases of Rogue together and I passed out watching a recap of the Kelly Slater vs. Andy Irons battle for surfing's top prize on the big screen. I think everyone had fun.

The whole boat shudders when the big MTU's fire up. All told, there were two mains for propulsion, a generator for the house electrics and a generator for the bow thruster. We got underway. The Coast Guard, looking down from the high tower just seaward of the bridge, checked in with us and wished us a good trip. River bars can be a nuisance when waves are breaking across them but today the bar wasn't bad. Not yet at least, bad weather was not expected until midnight.

It was a great day to be out with the sunfish, odd white tip dolphin and whales everywhere. We later had some fog and all the while, ominous clouds built on the horizon. The big bad swells came, just as predicted. Though not more than 12-15 feet top to bottom, they were big enough to make the boat a handful. I had the 0000-0300 watch, my favorite - really. Keith came on after me and seemed concerned. With millions of dollars worth of boat and gear that he was responsible for he had reason to be. An error message was flashing onto the dark autopilot gauge every few seconds. I hadn't noticed. It was telling us that it was operating beyond it's limits. Still, each time the big boat surfed off course the autopilot found it's way back. The boat and I had been riding the swells together for three hours, alternately climbing and then surfing the steep walls of water. She seemed happy to me.

I woke up to calming seas. We spent another great day cruising down the coast finally pulling into Drake's Bay just north of the Golden Gate. It was too late for any festivities, so after a coldie and some TV we passed out, exhausted from a long hard day of pushing buttons while kickin' back in a phat captain's chair in a big cozy pilothouse with the world's best view. In the morning we motored in under the big red span and turned left. Capt. Keith deftly maneuvered that big keel-less boat down the narrow cross-currented channel, around some sharp turns and into a tiny marina. Daddy's home baby!

Next month: if all goes as planned I'll be reporting on a sailing adventure along the same route, though uphill (read: up current, up wind). Yes, I found a sailboat this time not that there is anything wrong with powerboats (of the full displacement, conservatively driven variety).

August 8, 2007

The Mexican Fisherman - #89

When I’m not traveling I live on my boat in a marina south of Los Angeles. Through the middle of our town runs Pacific Coast Highway. It is a six lane boulevard where cars flow solid from 7am to 10am north into L.A. and again southbound in the evening. It is an impressive sight. As a kid I remember seeing the twice daily parade of cars and I wondered what inspired those people to want to do such a thing.

The Mexican Fisherman
An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.
The Mexican replied, "Only a little while."
The American then asked, "Why didn't you stay out longer and catch more fish?"
The Mexican said, "With this I have more than enough to support my family's needs."
The American then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"
The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life."
The American scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing; and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat: With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor; eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles and eventually New York where you will run your ever-expanding enterprise." The Mexican fisherman asked, "But, how long will this all take?"
To which the American replied, "15 to 20 years."
"But what then?" asked the Mexican.
The American laughed and said that's the best part. "When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions."
"Millions?...Then what?"
The American said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."
-- Author Unknown

It is a story that has been circulating for years. It’s a story I save for friends who may be caught up in the “work harder to purchase more” culture and who look at me funny for suggesting that happiness can be found in simple pleasures.

Cruising is a great way to experience those magical places on the planet where the people blissfully live off of seemingly nothing. I first discovered the appeal of the small town when I cruised with Bob and Jody on Lost Soul. On our way to Europe, via the canal, we spent some time in Latin America. Like the fisherman story there was something interesting going on in those very small towns far removed from big cities. There was less traffic, less noise, the gaps left by these seemed to be filled with quality, family based activities, more strolling and community interaction. Those people were, more than not, sincerely happy. How could that be though, those people were poor.

Across the Atlantic we ventured into the Med where more surprises were in store for me and my warped perception that value was measured by money. In the Med you go stern-to an ancient low sea wall and, more than not, you're greeted by a local wanting to help you secure your vessel and welcome you to their village. You head ashore and people you don’t know smile and nod hello to you. Fishermen, after their day at sea that started before sunrise are merrily cleaning their catch and chatting, in a language you’ll never know, over tables at the water's edge. People, young and old, are seen hanging out in the middle of town enjoying each others company. Instead of rushing you out to 'turn' a table, the restaurants expect you to spend the evening with them just as if you were part of the family.

During the day I would walk the meandering pathways, most every town had them, that wound along the coastal hillsides through shops and inns and open air caf├ęs and tavernas. The locals walked everywhere. If they wanted bread they walked to the bakery. Vegetables? The vegetable market, and so on. There were no cars. The towns were built before them. If you wanted to move goods you brought them in by burro and cart. Could a town survive without motorized vehicles I wondered? They can and they do and it is in these motorless havens that bliss thrives.

From cruising with Bob and Jody I went straight into yachting: privately owned luxury boats 'cruising' with paid crews. I quickly learned that millionaire yacht owners stressed over the same petty things as normal people. To be near airports and infrastructure and to secure parts and maintenance yachts had to spend a lot of time in marinas and big cities - for the most part, places that lack personality.

Yearning to get back to the basics I got my own cruise organized. The girlfriend and I would do it on my own boat. There would be no complicated, high maintenance systems and we would sail when and where we wanted to. And it worked. I got clear of cars and rent and bills and the rest of the mania that we all participate in when we are home in the states. Life slowed down and quality increased. The world opened up and revealed a thousand great experiences. I was back in the land of showering off the swim step, hiking waterfalls, getting to know the locals and enjoying three stop shopping: bakery, fruit stand, vegetable market.

The cruising community operates a lot like a small town. Cruisers quickly learn to be more independent and resourceful than their city bound brothers and sisters. Finding themselves in more isolated environments, cruisers aren't afraid to get to know their neighbors. When there is a big project, a vessel aground or a rebuilding of the school house in the village ashore, cruisers lend their time freely and aren't afraid to get their hands dirty. In the evenings cruisers gather to socialize and get caught up with the events of the day, often for hours. A cruiser can be independent while still having a strong sense of community.

I think our society could learn a lot from cruising and village life. Is there hope for those people commuting their lives away? I like to think so. I see a time when more of our streets will be transformed to green belts traversed by foot traffic, bicycles and silent shuttles. More people will work from home spending the time they save by not commuting on higher quality experiences like getting outside and saying hi to the neighbors, spending quality time with the very important next generation and walking to their local shops where goods were brought in from sources closer to home. For the rest of us it would be a nice place to visit between cruises.

Note: I want to thank my seven fans for sticking by me, understanding that in my pursuit of the American dream (for me it was funds to cruise on) I had to cut some corners on the things I would have preferred to have been spending more time on ie: getting out sailing and writing about it. For better or for worse I'm back and penniless but hungry to get out there. Have a cruising leg that you'd like some company on? Look me up, I'm cheap right now.

July 7, 2007

Q&A - #88

Capt. Woody,
One of my concerns about going offshore is steering loss, particularly through the loss of, or severe damage to the rudder. Given a boat that has a fin keel and no skeg, the potential for problems is probably greater than with certain other designs. I believe that rudder failures are in the 3% range in the ARC. I work on the basis that if it is going to happen to anyone, it’s going to happen to me and 3 out of 100 in my world is really high.

There are vane gear manufacturers that incorporate emergency steering options. Are there any that offer not only good self steering but truly solid, meaningful emergency systems or would you suggest a completely separate emergency steering set up?

Any insights would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks Jim

The rest of the boat being well built, I suspect you would be fine with a stand alone spade rudder for most coastal cruising and even for nice downwind crossings. People circumnavigate with spades but it wouldn't be my first choice. Even my relatively light displacement Cal 33 has a full skeg protecting the rudder. I suspect my rudder could operate without it but the skeg gives extra protection and cuts back on wear and tear on the rudder shaft bearing and sleeve. Going with an unsupported rudder is another cruising tradeoff, this time speed for safety.

There are products that offer both self-steering gear that can operate as an emergency rudder system as well as stand alone emergency rudder systems. My Low Key has the Aries self-steering. I'm told that if I were to lose the rudder I could lock its mini-rudder in place and steer the boat with the vane section. I suspect that the rudder would not be big enough to keep us stable in heavier weather. In that circumstance I would deploy a drogue and hope that the combo would keep us from broaching. Once conditions mellow I'm sure the little Aries rudder, with properly balanced sails, could get us to the nearest island.

If my boat had a spade I would be satisfied with a self-steering system that had a true emergency rudder option if it were backed up by a series drogue and a storm (tiny, strong) headsail. Hydrovane offers a self-steering system with emergency rudder capabilities (and offers a discount to Lats and Atts Cruising Club members). Tania Aebi loved her Monitor which is a similar design to the Aries. It was always an adventure getting the rudder in and out of the water with the Aries. The new Monitors have a flip up design which would alleviate that scenario. Monitor also offers a larger rudder that could be swapped out at sea to provide emergency steering - sounds good. Cape Horn and Auto-Helm also offer self-steering with emergency rudder options. An interesting stand alone emergency rudder set up is the SOS Rudder. You can find all of these products online:,,,

Regarding the "it will happen to me" mindset. I don't believe in bad luck. I believe that some people get in the habit of bad planning (choices). Keep an eye on your gear. Cruising is not a 'hope for the best' pastime. You get good gear, you install it properly and you watch it, check it, inspect it and keep it going. You've given up your job, house, cars, most bills and family requirements; you're going to want something to fill the void. Replace some of that spare time with 'the game'. You and yours now have one primary mission - to keep your floating world at peace. Stuff on a boat is constantly working its way loose, wearing down. It's fun. Learn about your boat. Be able to get to every locker and bilge space. Can't see behind some piece of gear? Get a mirror. One last tip: if you do allow something break, fix it asap (fluff items - nonessential for boat operation, excluded). The sea has a tendency to take advantage of those with the 'manana' mindset.

Captain Woody,
We have recently modified our fridge compartment to allow the installation of a C-keg so that we can enjoy, as you do, a coldie while underway. We have our first batch of the golden nectar in the carboy and soon look forward to completing the cycle and putting it in the keg. During the process we have noticed several items that may (or may not) be issues concerning making beer while underway. So we figured you were an excellent source of knowledge and submit the following questions for your review:

1. After cooking the malts, etc. do you worry about getting the remaining water near freezing so that you can pitch the yeast immediately, or do you just use the water you have at the temperature it is and wait for the wort to cool below 80 degrees before adding the yeast?
2. Do you do anything special to keep the temperature of the wort down below 85 degrees during fermentation? Most recipes suggest 75 as an ideal temperature but that seems impossible in the tropics.
3. Do you have any issues with the movement of the boat causing mixing of the sediments during fermentation?
4. Do you run CO2 or use a hand pump for the keg?
5. Any problems finding CO2, hops, brewers yeast, and malts in other countries?

We really look forward to making this happen, beer can be expensive in other countries, so we hope this provides us an economical and refreshing way to enjoy our coldies after a hard days sail. Not only that but I am sure there are other cruisers out there that with a little help and encouragement can modify their fridge compartments (if necessary) to make this happen. In fact it could be a movement, not unlike the Alice’s Restaurant Anti Massacre Movement, maybe the Cruisers Brew Making Movement. You could be our leader, got a tune to go along with it?

Graham Coffee
S/V Hot Latte Tudes

What a splendid idea. Like the monks of old we'll integrate Cruisers Brew Making into our Church of the Sea ideology.

Sounds like you know more about brewing than I. Understand that my system was a simplified version of a complicated process that I observed while adventuring around Australia. In Australia beer is expensive and a can of pre-made wort ( cost about $12 and was available from every corner store. Each can made 6 gallons of beer. With the pre-made wort, I would boil water and pour it in, adding the yeast, as I recall, as the temperature dropped. Sometimes the sea temp would get above the desired 74 degrees but on the fo'c'sle floor of Low Key the temp was always in the prime range. This is what brought me to the realization that God likes beer. I asked the Aussies about the sloshing/mixing issue and they were under the impression that it helped. Mine always turned out perfect. You can filter the sediments if you like.

I didn't use CO2 though I saw a rig with that set up. It looked like a good way to go. Again, keeping it simple, my brewing container had a tap at the bottom and, for secondary fermentation, I would decant into plastic liter soda bottles. It worked really well for me. I could chill just what I needed and, of course, there was a space savings.

I didn't have to track down all the ingredients. The only thing I had to carry was sugar and the cans of wort which had their own little packets of yeast. I would imagine that you can find CO2 anywhere, just about every place a cruiser is likely to go has pressure bar taps.

"Just a half a mile from the railroad track ..." working on the tune.

June 7, 2007

Q&A - #87

Subject: Dear Dorothy Dix. I am often amused why it is, that while non military sailors from throughout the world continue to gain certifications and qualifications, it seems that only pretentious wankers from the US prefix their names with 'Captain'.

It is difficult to believe the questions posed to Captain Woody Henderson are from real sailors. Equally, it is with growing cynicism that I note the poor content of the answers. This style of puerile 'Q' & 'A' bullshit, is symptomatic of a writer bereft of ideas and imagination and seriously lacking in motivation. When Tania Aebi began to tell us in her column that she was searching for things to write about, she had the good judgement to take a break and therefore allow the space to be filled with words of value from a different source. The tripe which comes from the pen of Captain Henderson tells me volumes about the man; mostly it tells me that he truly is by my definition, a Captain absolute.

David Baker.

Note to self: scratch Dave from the fan club.

Hi Capt. Woody, Everyone keeps telling me to just leave and the hardest thing I'll do is cut the dock lines but the probs I'm dealing with are sort of put my plans on hold. it also gives me time to find a small bit of doubt deep down in side...not fear but just a feeling that "I'll screw it up" feeling. I was wondering if you could help me out with a few sailing questions?
1) I want to see the world. I like sailing and boating also. but I have a big fear that when I leave I will end up in a port of some small country where the price of entry will be equal to about 100 times what I would ever be able to afford and I will lose my tiny boat and belongings while being expelled...or worse fined by somewhere like Australia for not being able to make land fall on the date and time they tell me too. do you turn around and go back to sea when you find that you aren't going to make the allotted time frame in to port?

2) everyone I know seems to go for those big huge boats and I just don't have the funds, nor do I feel I would be up to the work needed to sail a huge 50'er by my self. I really felt my Coronado 27 was perfect in the size and the work required to single hand and had plenty of room for me (and when we did the short 4 day trips she had plenty of room for both me and my Brother) but everyone shunned her because of the mast. if I plan it out and watch the weather would a deck stepped mast work OK for extended cruises and maybe even a thought out and well planned Atlantic crossing?

I grew up reading about Robin Graham and the DOVE. I know speed is great and all the fancy stuff like water maker and water heater is nice but I was hoping to go as simple and laid back as I can. solar powered lights, and filling up water tanks with rain when I could and such. sort of keeping everything simple. any advice would be greatly received.
Thanks, Bill. SC-22 "IMA DRUNK"

Doubt schmout Bill, don’t let it get the best of you. When faced with a challenge, I picture the solution and work backwards. Picture you on your boat swinging gently to your hook in a myriad of perfect anchorages. Believe in it, and then look back to find how you got there.

Checking in: I have to say that the only thing that scared me, way back when I thought about doing my own trip was the check in burocracy.

Most people seem concerned with what surprises the sea holds for them. To me, the sea is just doing its thing, it’s got no ulterior motive. Get humans involved and all manner of treachery is possible. Will I have the right paperwork and will it all be filled out correctly? Which office do I visit first, do they require local funds and how much, and on and on.

You can show up at most countries (I’ll cover the exceptions) with current documentation and a zarpe (permission to leave the last country) and you’ll be legal. Be sure you have the same number crew that you had when you left the last port. Only two countries, in thirty some odd I’ve sailed to, required visas before entering. These were Australia and Brazil. The most I ever paid to enter/exit a country was our own American Samoa. That was $140. Usually its between free (love those French islands) and $40 or so. I’ve never heard of a country requiring you to show up at a certain time. Dena and I took the short cut with our Australian visas (no chest X-ray required) and got the 3 month temporary Visa. I easily got the 6 month upgrade when that ran out. I mention it because the 3 month starts as soon as you get it. That’s the only time limit I ever had. Tahiti required a $1500 deposit or a plane ticket out. We had Dena’s flight passes and the guy in the Marquesas let us in with that. Otherwise, we would have had a real short visit. As I understand it (to be used as a last resort) international law requires that countries must allow any vessel entry if they are in distress. I suspect they would give you a couple days to get your act together and then escort you back out to sea. They don’t want you or your boat taking up residence – something that might occur if they relieved you of your money.

KISS: keep it simple stupid is a cruising mantra. Seems like less boats are heading out simply. It’s just a different way to go. If you get out far enough you’ll see some cheap-az boats in some far-off places. They are firmly set on that lower ledge of the cruising community $-wise but if smiles rate the experience, from what I’ve seen, they are getting more than their money’s worth.

I say go with whatcha got. I had a Coronado 27 for a brief stint. We would take it out storm sailing. We didn’t know what a storm was back then but the other owner and I would take it out on a windy day (20-30) and tie off the tiller and knock a few back as the boat blasted out to sea. We would return soaked and beat up, but always laughing and ready for an eve at the yacht club to regale our adventure. I don’t remember the Coronado ever complaining.

As far as deck stepped goes, keep in mind that my Low Key is deck stepped and she made it around without incident. Consider upgrading at least the rigging. As I recall, Robin Graham and his pop did some major upgrades to his Cal including adding bulkheads to make the boat stronger. Upgrades that I ended up engaging in while holed up in various paradises.

Have you had your boat out on some overnight ocean runs? I would suggest you take a month off (tell the boss Capt. Woody said so) and get her out in some strong winds and big seas for a few days at a time and then see what you think. The Atlantic is a long trip, especially that direction. You’ll want to gain some confidence in your vessel and get a feel for what your boat’s capabilities are and get an idea what 30-40 days of open ocean sailing might be like for both you and her. After such a trip you may consider a different version of adventure, a circumnavigation of the Caribbean for example.

If I wanted to cruise the Med and sailing my Coronado over was the only way I could afford to do it then you’d be throwing me a going away party. In the interest of CYA (cover yer az) I can’t tell you you should do it. In an ocean built boat, during the right season, I don’t consider that trip risky at all, even with minimal skills. For your Coronado it’s a much more challenging voyage. That being said, had I listened to all the hacks in my marina I would have missed out on my life’s greatest adventure. That is, greatest adventure so far.

May 7, 2007

Q&A - #86

Say Cpt Woody, when you were on Trinidad did you see many large (55-65 LOD ~ 50-55 LWL) steel boats? I sure be lookin but not findin' nothin' ya know? Just curious if I've left a stone unturned there.

There were a ton of neglected cruising boats for sale there in the boat yards. Tania and I weren't looking for bigger boats though so I don't remember seeing one. Frances at Dynamite Brokerage was very helpful and seemed to represent every boat on the island. They have a good website with pics: Tania ended up getting her boat in St. Maarten and she found others for sail, er, for sale in the Dominican Republic.

Hey Woody, I love the winch wench, best idea since sliced cheese. Is there any way you can make them bigger? I drink the big bottles of Gatorade and they don't fit. A slot for a coffee mug would be cool also. Second, I just got my first boat, a Pearson 35, 1981, and everyone (people that work at the marina) tells me not to drink the water from the tanks. I plan on doing a lot of coastal cruising in this boat and carrying 2 weeks of bottled water sounds like a real pain in the butt. When I look in the tanks they look clean. How do I make these tanks useable for drinking/cooking water? Thanks, Gary T. Orr s/v OSPREY

Gary, thanks for the ideas for the Winch Wench! For those of you that are waiting for a new model to come out, there won't be one in the foreseeable future. Buy the original! (And get me back out cruising!) For coffee, or other temperature sensitive beverages like boat brewed Bavarian lager, you can use those handleless travel (car) cups.

I agree that you should be able to drink water out of your tanks. Is the marina staff worried about your tanks or their dock water? How does the water taste (from both)? Are your tanks made of some material that is breaking down and causing the water problem? If not, and your problem is normal water tank growth, then there are a couple of things you can try. I would start by thoroughly cleaning out the tank. Stuff grows on the inside and accumulates at the bottom of water tanks so get an arm and a rag inside if you can. Suck it dry with a shop vac. Rinse thoroughly, too much bleach is bad for you and bleach is bad for rubber hoses and pump fittings.

To keep growth from coming back cruisers use maintenance doses of Bleach or Iodine. I'm no expert on tank treatment so I've consulted a couple - experts that is. Nigel Calder, in his indispensable compendium of cruising gospel – Cruising Handbook, says you can treat your tanks with unscented, household Bleach (the normal 5% solution of sodium hypochlorite kind). He suggests 10 teaspoons (1.67 ounces) per 100 gallons and twice that for cloudy or questionable water. Open the fill so that the fumes can vent.

Beth Leonard in her book Voyager's Handbook talks about using four to five ounces of bleach per 100 gallons. Careful if you have aluminum tanks, bleach eats aluminum. She also recommends a charcoal filter for drinking water.

Iodine kills stuff that bleach can leave behind. 5 milliliters (.17 ounces) for 5 gallons Nigel says. For iodine to do its thing he suggests you leave it in the tank for 15 hours. I use iodine instead of bleach to clean my plastic brew containers. It doesn't leave a taste like bleach (a tip I got from a reader).

Woody, Very much enjoy your articles and Lats and Atts mag. My wife, Linda and I recently retired and moved to St. Thomas. We have taken a basic keel boat course in SF and want to continue with our lessons with the aim to be able to charter a boat to use here in the islands or...maybe buy one eventually. There are several schools here in St. Thomas or Tortola. Do you have an opinion on one? The only one we checked out so far is Blue Water Sailing School. They offer a 7 day ASA101 Basic Sailing, ASA103 Basic Coastal Cruising and ASA104 Bareboat Chartering combined course. Price $1595 inclusive per person. What do you think?
Michael Hantman

Living in a sailing paradise? I would say that you would definitely want to know how to sail. Yes, the ASA (American Sailing Association) is probably the biggest sailing instruction program in the States. I was once an ASA instructor (for a company with the same name). I suppose you could get anyone to teach you to sail but an ASA certification would be recognized all over. If you are going to be sailing boats of all sizes for the rest of your life (a fate which you are now doomed, living in a sailing mecca) than the 101-104 program you found is a lot of training for the money. I don't know what you've got going down there (Google would tell us) but US Sailing and the J-World programs are also well recognized.

Another option (read: short cut), if you are only interested in chartering, would be to go straight to chartering. Most companies (Lats uses Sunsail) will put a skipper aboard to teach you what you need to know. If you don't know anything, you can take one of their skippered charters where you share the boat with other couples and a skipper and chef look after you. That's high end (I've only experienced this option through the brochure). It's more likely that you will opt for chartering your own smaller boat and paying the daily rate for a company skipper. Depending on how qualified you are you could have him/her aboard for a day or two or the whole week. Skippers cost 'round $150 a day plus food.

Posted on the Lats Bull Board by: CAELESTIS
I hope this is not too far off the subject, but I noticed the Lost Soul draws just over eight feet. My boat does as well. I am wondering how much (other than the Bahamas) it limits your cruising?

I think that the stability and sailability you get from the deeper keel makes it worth it. With a deeper keel you'll learn to pay more attention to tides and charts, and when necessary, you'll want to put someone in the rig or on the bow to look out for the odd bomby (Ozzie for coral head). I cruised on Lost Soul through the relatively shallow Bahamas. We had to stay to the middle and could only pull into certain places but I felt like we got a thorough look at the island chain, and had some fun along the way. There were a couple places in Mexico that we found the bottom but I attribute that to playful indifference.

Most Pacific cruising destinations you don't worry about depth much. I know that things are different on the East Coast and especially on the ICW (where I've left my mark on three occasions – it's unnatural running all day through buoys!). While anchored in Darwin, where the shallow water extends far offshore, Low Key and I learned all about tide tables and how to work with them. I was re-parking every few days in order to keep that couple inches of water below the keel, all in order to keep the dinghy ride to a reasonable distance. After the Indian Ocean tsunami it occurred to me that my penchant for parking close to shore would have gotten me in trouble that day. With a deeper keel you'll learn to be more careful in the shallows but your offshore work, especially upwind, will be more fun.

April 7, 2007

Q&A - #85

I get questions ...

Hoy Captain! For my next boat, I'm considering purchasing a boat from the fleet of one of the major Caribbean charter companies (Moorings, Sunsail, etc.). I'd like to get one with a year left on it's contract (to avoid The Governator's sales tax). After 11 months, I'd go meet the boat, repair and provision, and sail 'er back to SoCal. I've seen the boats. They're well-maintained and good buys. I'm looking forward to the experience, sailing, and fun. Whatcha think?-Patrick

I think it's a great idea. You didn't say what you would be using the boat for. A couple issues ago I commented that Beneteaus in general are not ideal for Horn roundings or North Sea Storms. Still, I would cruise in one ... carefully. I've considered the just-out-of-charter boats. Unlike buying a new, just-going-into-charter-program vessel, at least you know what you are going to end up with.

With your plan, a lot can happen in a year. I guess you would just be worried about exceptionally hard groundings. Tania and I found a Beneteau in Trinidad on our search for her boat. It had been grounded hard. The damage didn't extend into the hull. We checked on the repair cost. It wasn't real expensive. See if they will guarantee you receive your boat in a certain minimum condition.

Or just buy the boat after it leaves the fleet. It’s changed a lot over the years, but as I understand it, to get the tax free, foreign, status, we have to sail to Mex each year for a chunk of time. Say it with me, “Oh darn”. If you need to keep it out of the country for the first year maybe buy it after it's done chartering and cruise the Caribbean while you refit. Working in paradise ain't so bad. Haul outs can be cheaper. Some gear manufacturers are based down there, Kiss and Carib come to mind. Venezuela is still the best place to get hauled and get major work done. I know, I know, I've heard the propaganda too. Big business is upset with Venezuela (for good reason). The cruisers I'm hearing from are not having problems and loving having it all to themselves (though sharing with the odd European cruiser).

Point is, properly done, it would take you a year to get back to CA. Cartegena, San Blas, Las Perlas, Golfito, Puntarenas, Playa del Coco, Huatulco, Puerto Escondido, Acapulco, Navidad - must I go on!?

Shortened for space ...
Ahoy Captain Woody, First let me say that my wife and I just love your articles in Latitudes and Attitudes, it has become a regular part of our routine reading from cover to cover. (Capt. Woody note: I made room for that part.) Our names are Alan and Kathy we are both 54 years young and we both are in dire need of some professional advice.

After years of talking and daydreaming my wife and I are finally sailing. We currently own a Clipper Marine 23 with a swing keel and trailer. In the summer we joined the Downtown Sailing Center in Baltimore and enrolled in the basic keel-boat course which we both completed. We have been out on several open sails with the school and we have been out on our own boat about 8 times.

After our first season trailering the boat, launching and retrieving every time, we decided to prep the boat and move it to a wet slip to increase our sailing time. I am switching the (running) rigging to all rope and running the controls to the cockpit for ease of handling I am also rebuilding the mast and boom and re-rigging both.

Our goal is to become qualified enough to cross the Atlantic, and the spend several years coastal cruising all of Europe and the Mediterranean. While discussing our plans last weekend my wife thought it might be a good idea to take a 7-8 day ASA course over the winter so as to be better prepared for the spring season. All during this time I am constantly looking for our next boat, but I am unsure what size to get, rear or center cockpit, glass hull or cement. Should we go to 30-34 foot as an interim or jump straight into an ocean going boat and what size is ocean going? As you can see we are dazed an confused and are in need of some counseling. Can you help? Alan and Kathy Lunn

I love the enthusiasm. Good for you guys. As far as experience for crossing the Atlantic, I think you are on the right track with the courses and getting your boat out, and getting comfortable with her, in all kinds of conditions. Probably the best way to gain ocean experience is to do a leg with another boat. You want to do this cruise with a skipper that has done ocean legs before. Lastly, and this is after you've found your ocean crosser, you should live on her while you coastal cruise. You want to get comfortable with the boat and her systems - from plumbing to sail trim. Reefing and balancing the sails (for easy steering in various conditions) should be second nature.

I've only sailed the Atlantic that direction once. I was cruising on Lost Soul with Bob and Jody. We were coming out of the Caribbean and for whatever reason we decided to skip Bermuda and go straight to the Azores. I remember it was real nice for most of the sail but we had to beat the last portion of the trip to land in Horta. It was my first crossing. The sail from the Azores to Gibralter was mellow and then sailing/motoring around the Med of course was incredible.

Choosing a boat is such a personal thing. No matter what I say here I'm going to get an earful 'round our Harbor Hangout. And since that never stopped me before, let's get started. Rear or center cockpit: the purists like steering from aft but I think I’d give that up for that massive aft stateroom. Cement, wood, no. I like fiberglass and aluminum. I won’t say anything bad about steel because miss Tania just bought steel ... it’s supposed to be a real nice boat (I’m buying her scrapers and Ospho for the boatwarming - that‘s all I‘m gonna say!).

I’m thinking you’re looking at a 30-40 foot Island Packet or Com Pac (oops, both have ads in Lats) or a boat of similar design. I’ve said it before, if yer crossing oceans, a thicker boat is more expensive and may be slower but it is safer, especially if you don’t have a ton of experience. After that first year or two you may be looking for something that turns bigger numbers.

"30-34 foot as an interim or jump straight into an ocean going boat" What?? Don't let my Low Key hear you say that. She thinks that 33' is plenty enough to get you around. But seriously, people tend to think that a bigger boat is safer. In many ways, larger works against you - bigger sails and booms and anchors and higher tensions on lines and on and on. I’m not saying that if I had enough Euros I wouldn’t be singlehanding a 70’ sled round and around but with a bigger boat comes bigger expenses. You want to save some of your Drachmas for buying that Italian hottie 9$ Red Bull/Vodkas at the Hard Rock Mykonos so that she'll go to the after hours full moon spuma party at the Cliff House with you, which totally worked, but since you were the only one there not on X you passed out in her arms on the morning pink party-bus ride back to the marina. Sorry - flashback.

March 7, 2007

Q&A - #84

I get questions ...

Dear Captain Woody,
I live in Melbourne Australia, and I am planning to travel to the east coast of the US to purchase a pocket cruiser. The route home would include the ICW, Caribbean, Central America, Panama Canal and then across the Pacific for home. As I will be sailing solo and on a budget, I will be looking at one of the following yachts: Cape Dory 25d, 27, 28 or the Bristol 29, 30 or the Bayfield 25, 29. I would appreciate your opinion on these yachts and any advice you may have regarding fitout requirements for such a trip.

I look forward to each new edition of Latitudes & Attitudes and enjoy the columns by yourself, Bob and Tania. I think that the magazine is the best of its kind anywhere in the world. Your thoughts on the above would be appreciated.
Kind Regard

I'm a big fan of Oz. I made a lot of friends while cruising the east and north coasts and am looking forward to a future visit.

Regarding your planned adventure: sounds like a fun route. Once you pass Cuba (to starboard) it will be mostly downwind. You didn't have route questions though. I haven't sailed any of those boats. I had a quick look online. They all look like similar designs, all very sturdy. The boats are going to be small, not so fast, very safe cruisers. I suspect that is what you are looking for. Go on the owner’s association websites and ask them to compare their boat to the others. Remember that people who own a certain boat will often be biased to some extent. You should still be able to get some good information. Check out My friend Alex is out cruising on a small full keeled boat. I know he did a lot of research before his purchase and has since learned even more while out cruising. You should drop him a line.

As far as setting your boat up: I’d start out with the basics. That’s a lot of sea miles and you want to be sure she is up for the task. Check bulkheads where they meet the hull, for cracks or delamination. Inspect often. Make sure you know where all of the holes in the boat are. This includes all throughhull sensors, raw water intakes, drains, exhaust, etc. and make sure they are closable. Consider fitting ball valves for longevity and ease of use. Next, on my list, is the rigging. On Low Key, I finished our voyage two sizes up from stock and still broke a strand on the beat up Baja. Like everything, there’s a balance. You want strength without too much weight aloft. You want a dry boat. Even if your new boat lives in a rainy place you may not discover all the leaks until you get out and flex the hull while taking waves. Get good at pulling up deck hardware and putting it back down. In case it wasn’t clear from last months issue, I’m a fan of dodgers. You’ll also want some kind of shade for sailing the tropics. I tied a Sunbrella tarp back from the dodger to the stern pulpit and backstay. This also helped with spray. Out there, comfort is paramount.

Gear: On a little boat you don’t want too much junk; it just takes up space and time for maintenance. (It occurs to me that the same thinking should be applied to a big boat.) Whatever fixtures come with the boat are probably what you will leave with. The following are some recommendations for anything you may be replacing.

On deck: We always say that the first thing you put on a boat is a BBQ, a beanbag and a full cooler. Next, a good anchor (CQR, Delta, Bruce) and couple hundred feet of chain makes for sound sleep. A Danforth for the stern hook (to winch the stern toward hot Ozzie beaches) worked well for me. A manual windlass near the bow is fine. Beside a reefable mainsail and a strong jib or two you’ll want a big headsail and strong pole for that long downwind coconut milk run. Self steering – if you forget everything else, don’t leave without good self steering (Aries and Monitor are most popular). Bring a good bucket. You’ll use it to rinse the decks, showers, dishes, laundry, cleaning fish and bailing … you know, if the occasion arises.

Juice: I like the wind/solar combo but for the little boats operating on a low budget, you may end up with one or the other. Solar’s silent, wind puts out 24/7 when it’s windy – you decide. Everything onboard should be 12v.

Electronics: I’ve said it before, I felt safer on Low Key sailing with just a GPS, depth sounder and radar detector in my cockpit than on million dollar yachts that I have skippered that have those blinding arrays. They tend to distract you from what’s actually happening. I had a handheld mapping GPS with 12 volt mount. My radar detector was made by CARD. Put a radar reflector in the rig. Down below you want a good VHF with masthead antenna. Consider an SSB or at least a cheap ham receiver for the fun of it.

Cabin: White lights for when parked and red lights when at sea for that all important night vision. The new LED’s use almost no amps. They can be used for running lights too. Check the LED white before you buy for the interior. You may want to go with something else for a warmer color.

Galley/head: There’s nothing wrong with an ice box. Ice is cheap when you can get it. For a stove you’re going to want at least a built in one burner with pot holders. It’s nice if it gimbals (with weight on it). A good pressure cooker works well as an oven. Along your intended path propane/butane is the most available cooking fuel. Install the tank where a leak will drain overboard. Always shut off at the tank ‘tween meals. Fresh water foot pumps, one for each sink. If you don’t have a flushing head onboard I would plumb in a basic Jabsco head.

Motor: again, you’ll go with what you got but … diesel is safer and lower maintenance. Bring the shop manual and become intimate with your engine (or nearly so).

Ambience: I know, not the first thing you think of, but it makes for a more enjoyable adventure. Besides, chicks dig it. One kerosene lamp; every boat should have one. Those little votive candlettes that come in their own silver tin, 10 for a $, are very handy and mobile and reasonably safe.

General tips: when going to sea keep the deck as tidy as possible. Down below always secure everything so items will stay put during a wet-mast knockdown. Serious offshore cruisers prep their gear for a full roll over.

This is just a sprinkling of things I would consider when outfitting my pocket cruiser. Stuff I don’t have room to elaborate on are tools, spares, foulies etc. Drop me a line if you have other questions.

Switching gears here I wanted to give an update on our friend Jes. If you read our rag you know that her Morgan Out Island 41 Blessed Be was dismasted just before arriving in French Polynesia. While a yard in Raiatea has been refitting BB, Jes has returned to WA to publish her book Doggy on Deck: Life at Sea with a Salty Dog (Absolutely Everything You Need to Know Before Cruising with Fido). No, I’m not making it up. Jes will soon fly back to Raiatea to fire up her boat and point her north. She will be sailing BB to Washington via Hawaii. I believe she’s looking for crew. Any takers? Adventure of a lifetime. Contact:

February 7, 2007

Q&A - #83

I get questions ...

Hello Woody, My name is Brian, I am living aboard in Toronto Ont. Canada and am preparing my '87' Tayana 37(Bristol condition) for offshore cruising. I am at the stage of building or having a dodger made. Do you have any thoughts about using 1" plexiglass on deck and the height of & need for the dodger to be collapsible? What do you think of just windshields? I am looking for a relatively dry place for the radar screen, electronics and a wind break.
I also have never been to sea, I have only lost sight of land on an overcast day on Lake Ontario, but I have been in waves that were short and high enough for me to see the bottom of my keel peek out of a swell. Winds no higher than 25-30 knots. Right now I have no dodger and the boat is safe as safe can be but I sail solo and the radar is below waiting to be brought up and the inability to get out of the wind in the cockpit is very draining. Any ideas would be appreciated. Brian

Brian: I like those Tayanas. The dodger is very important. In the outfitting of Low Key for her extended voyage, I spent more money on the dodger than any other single piece of gear (which isn't saying much). Barring a sinking or dismasting, remaining comfortable in “exciting” conditions is my main priority. When you let yourself get chilled to the bone once, it can take days to recover. So let's keep you dry.

I’m not a fan of the windshield. Waves hit the bow of a sailing cruiser and head up and aft, dumping down and across the cockpit. Windshields just don't cut it. With them you will be getting some water, not just on you, but down the companionway too. I had the traditional soft dodger built. I don't get why disposable dodgers are so popular. When I go again, I will build a hard dodger. They last longer and you can attach stuff to them like handrails, solar panels and antennae. You can also build in stuff to the underside. I'm talking about speakers, out of the way. I personally think bright displays don’t belong in your field of vision.

Plexi is fine. I don’t think you'll need 1 inch though. If the only way to get your engine out is through the companionway (with a block and tackle from the main), then you will want to make the top removable or build in some other accommodation.

There are some things you should consider when figuring the height of your dodger. I'm not a fan of the full standing head room cockpit dodgers and biminis. I think it makes for a goofy look. The dodger should just be high enough so that coming in and out of the companionway is a comfortable motion. They built mine kinda low profile. It looks really kewl but looks don’t mean much when you are banging upwind and getting soaked. The height on mine is fine, but next time I will bring the sides further aft so that my favorite companionway bulkhead seat stays even drier. I may have to short crank the primaries or move them back but it will be worth it. As long as I'm dry I'm happy in any conditions … you know, within reason.

Capt'n Woody, I am in the process of buying my retirement sailboat (my 4th boat) and cannot find any information on cruising with a dog and what is needed in different countries as far as having pets on board... What papers are needed, etc... I will be cruising the Sea of Cortez for a couple of years and then heading through the canal to the Caribbean... I have looked all over the internet and haven't found much information.. I thought that it might be a good subject to include in L and A as there are a lot of people cruising (or going cruising) with pets... Also, how hard is it when coming back to the states.?? I appreciate your help. Thanks, Jack PS: Love the mag and your column....

Jack: You've got good timing. My friend Jes just finished her book on the subject. Check out:

Woody, I just read your column in my Dec. 06 Lat & Att's mag, I am getting caught up while the snow is flying here in N.E Ohio. Great info, you help my dreaming. My wife Jennifer and I want to cruise the world once our youngest of 3 is off to college (4 years). We own a 523 Beneteau and boat fresh water on Lake Erie (when it isn't frozen). My question is do you believe a production boat is 1) as safe and 2) as enjoyable as a custom boat like a Cabo Rico, or a Swan? Beneteau claims our 523 is a blue water boat, and Cabo claims their boats have never rolled or sank. What do you think, are we going to need to make a change eventually?
I look forward to your reply. Dan

Dan: Every boat will roll if exposed to the right conditions and, unless there has been a drastic change in Beneteau's manufacturing techniques, Beneteaus are not what most of us would consider bluewater cruisers. Both Cabo Rico and Swan make solid boats, Swan sacrificing some weight for speed. Not everyone can afford a true offshore boat though.

Is your boat safe? I would say you would need to be more aware on your 523 then if you were in a Cabo or Swan or similar boat that was designed for the rigors of offshore work. Ideally you won’t be rounding the Horn, challenging a North Sea winter storm, or cruising the Caribbean in the summer in your Beneteau. I’m not saying she won't handle rough seas, I'm sure for the most part she'd be fine. But while I might try to stay out and weather a major storm in the Cabo or Swan, in the Beneteau, I'm checking the chart for the nearest sand beach or mangrove.

I got to sail on a 523 for a week in the Caribbean last year. That certainly doesn’t make me an expert, but during my inspection and subsequent coastal cruise, the words "bluewater boat" never came to mind. Catalina has a similar ad campaign. I cringe every time I see it. I think Catalina makes wonderful boats … for coastal cruising. In Beneteau’s case, I’ve seen them all over the world and I would take one anywhere, during the right time of year.

Will your boat be just as enjoyable as the other two? Absolutely, maybe even more so. With a lighter boat you are more likely to sail in lighter air or in closer confines or sail on and off moorings and anchors. The interior of the 523 is going to be more spacious than the other two, certainly a plus. In the end, it doesn’t matter what boat you end up with, your enjoyment will ultimately depend on your attitude. Now, where have I heard that before?

January 7, 2007

Q&A - #82

I get questions …

Woody, I've never been to a boat show before so I hope to see some of you swabbies. If you were to go sailing, where and when would you go? Where are the best places to snorkel and find calm waters? I would like to charter but I've heard horror stories of bad boats and bad equipment. Can you give me some ideas please. My wife wants to do a short 5-day if possible. Thanks for your help. Randy, loyal reader.

What's up dude? If I could go sailing anywhere I would head back down to the South Pacific (Raiatea?). Our summer, their winter is the best time. Or better, I would go somewhere I haven't been – Micronesia, Japan? Sunsail just opened a base in Vietnam! I bet that's interesting.

But I think you probably meant something closer by. The Caribbean is best in the winter. Calm snorkeling? You want to go to the Bahamas. There is unbelievably beautiful water there. It’s clear because the Gulf Stream sweeps the waste from the U.S. up and away. It’s a great color because of the beautiful powder white sand underneath it. I haven't been in 12 years. I can imagine there are a lot of boats there nowadays being just 60 miles from FL. It's a big area though. Too crowded? Just head south.

I’ve had better experiences chartering from the bigger companies. There is more accountability. The last couple years we’ve been using Sunsail for our Lats Share the Sails. I’m told that the other big company offers a higher-end experience. We like laid back and easy going, you know, Low Key. Both companies have elite fleets that have new boats if you want to pay for them. Both companies will send a chase boat out to fix your problem. Most companies work on a seven day trip. You take the boat Friday afternoon. They let you sail Saturday morning after your briefing. The boat must be returned before noon the next Friday. For a more customized charter experience, try the charter brokers – Ed Hamilton comes to mind. Send pictures!

Subject: Help!
Dear Capt. Woody, I am in fairly desperate need of some advice and feel that you might be the best authority with the most resources and knowledge to answer my questions. To make my situation brief, I grew up on the Great Lakes and spent six years in the Navy. I am now landlocked and desperately yearn for my mistress, the sea. About three years ago, I realized the cause of the enormous void growing in my soul and decided that I must buy a sailboat and cruise, perhaps indefinitely. Shortly after this I discovered your wonderful magazine and have used it like a lifeline to cling to my goal. I have an opportunity to purchase a 30' Hunter (1991) on the Great Salt Lake.

Now, my questions:
1. If I purchase this boat to learn to sail (unfortunately, I cannot get to a coast presently, but am in Salt Lake City two days a week) and use as a refuge on my time off, can I convert it to a blue water boat and relocate it to the coast? I haven't really discovered what differentiates a blue water cruiser from a coastal cruiser.
2. If I purchase the boat, will it's having been located on the Salt Lake decrease it's resale value if I want to upgrade later?
3. In your opinion, would I be better off waiting and building up a sizable savings and following Tania Aebi's path to Trinidad to find and fix up an abandoned boat?
My current plan is to pay off my debt, buy a boat and build up enough in investments to ensure a $500-$1000/month income, and then disappear. I am planning on accomplishing this over the next three to five years. While I have a lot of experience on the ocean, I have next to no sailing experience and wouldn't mind gaining this along the way. I know you have to be incredibly busy with the magazine right now, especially with Bob and Jody off on an adventure, but if you have some time to throw some advice my way, I would be forever in your debt. Thanks for anything you can give,
Chuck - Armchair Sailor

I doubt the word ‘authority’ comes to mind when most people think Captain Woody. I just stopped back into the office between deliveries. I've got a few minutes. I would get the boat. I would grind the buyer to get the boat for as low a price as possible so I won't lose on the resale. Go to or to get an idea of what the boat is worth. Grinding: If the price is, for example, $10k, I would offer 7 or 8k contingent on a survey. Often, you can get the owner to split the cost with you. I would arrange it myself though - a call to a surveyor, usually $10 a foot, and a call to a boatyard for an in-the-slings survey haul. The survey will find some things wrong with the boat. If they're any good, they always do. Figure out what the repairs would cost if you had the boatyard do them – you’re already there. You will, of course, do many of the repairs yourself for less. If the repairs estimate is $2k, offer to split them with the owner and adjust the price once again. You are now closer to 6k.

Sail the boat for a year or two and figure out what kind of gear you want to have on a boat. Learn what works best for you, and most importantly, what gear you can do without. Cruz it on the weekends or when you have time, and hang out with other boats that are cruising to find out what works for them and what doesn't.

When you feel ready to move up, strip off the gear you like, make her look real pretty, and sell her (for a profit?). Then you can go buy a heavier boat. If she’s not selling on the lake, strap her to a truck (try our friends at: and put her in the ocean so you can try your hand at coastal cruising. The more experience the better.

As far as cruising that Hunter, I’m not familiar with that particular boat. In a cruiser you are looking closely at things like the strength of the hull to deck joint, the keel attachment, the rigging (is there a backstay?). You may be able to make it work. You just don't want to get into the situation I had. I had a very well planned low expense adventure going, but I ended up paying about a third of my funds toward keeping my coastal cruiser from breaking up. All told, I would have been able to afford a slightly sturdier boat.

I know the feeling. Your soul aches to get out there. If the Hunter is what you can afford and you don't have to keep working to afford her, then do it and cruise on her. Outfit her simply though beef up the rigging. As you sail around you will learn what the boat's limitations are. In the right season, you should feel comfortable sailing anywhere in the Caribbean on a coastal boat. It's all overnighters everywhere you go. In theory, you’re always a few hours from rescue (bring your Epirb). I found that on my boat, even when a bulkhead started to crack or the rudder started to break out of the deck, they did so very slowly. If you’re going to go light, then constant hull and rig inspections will be your new pastime. When you catch problems early, the fixes are easier and can often be made at sea – bring epoxy.

Captain Woody
p.s. I take payment in coldies.